Friday, March 27, 2015

Biggest Bully

The Biggest Bully
Many parents have to teach their children how to deal with school bullies. When the bullying is implemented by the state Department of Education, however, the problem may be harder to solve.
The town of Croydon is sending four children to schools that their parents chose. Three children are going to a Montessori school, one to a rigorous college-prep institution just down the road from my house in Plainfield. These schools fit these particular children. They are charging fees less than the state average per-pupil cost ($16,269.59 last year, according to the state web site). So it’s win-win-win, students, parents, and town all benefit.

This is not unusual in New Hampshire. The town of Derry sends its children to Pinkerton Academy; Coe-Brown Academy receives public students as well. Orford NH sends children to be taught by the Elven Council at Rivendell, in eastern Eriador. (Eriador is apparently in Vermont, though not displayed on Google Maps). New England towns have always put education above state borders; there have been school-choice arrangements here for hundreds of years.

But Virginia Barry and the bullies in the NH Department of Education are throwing their considerable weight in against the four Croydon children. They claim that for parents to choose where their school taxes are spent is illegal. They claim that the state, not the town, can force these children to go to a school that doesn’t fit them.

The keys to education are personal choice, self-motivation, and immersion. Read any biography of a successful person, and you see a series of enthusiasms and projects pursued with total focus. No Branson, Jobs, or Gates ever rose to prominence by following a rote curriculum designed by a committee of people they had never met. A successful education gives more and more control to the student, until by the time they are in high school they are planning and directing their own projects.
Choice is no less important to the “special needs” child. (Who may be one and the same as the “gifted”. Today children who behave like Edison, Wernher von Braun, or Richard Branson may be force-fed Adderall and herded onto the short bus). Children with physical or mental disabilities need the most individualized attention of all. They may need the direction of parents longer, and the parents need access to resources that fit the child.

For a small percentage of US children, this is how education works. Their parents choose between private schools, home school, or a good public school in an expensive suburb. This is how education works for the children of businessmen, professionals, and politicians.

The opponents of school choice often send their own children to private school. Obama’s children go to private school. Governor Hassan’s children went to private school. In Philadelphia, 44% of the public-school teachers send their own children to private school. They have chosen the education that best fits their child’s situation, as all parents should.

For the working-class taxpayer and parent, choices are much more restricted. New Hampshire has a limited educational choice program through the Network of Educational Opportunity, but it only supplies $2500 per child and only to low-income families. Meanwhile, there is over $16,249 available to educate every child… but the money is jealously hoarded by the bureaucracy.
Superintendent McGoodwin of the Claremont school district last week proposed to reduce Claremont’s tuition charged to students from small neighboring towns (currently set at $19,000). As the variable cost to Claremont for an additional student is only $9,000, the school benefits considerably from attracting more outside students (who can pay $14,425 to go to Lebanon high school, or less at various private schools).

This is the right approach for the public schools to take. Compete for students, to expand the opportunities available to every young mind in our state.

Croydon is going to fight the educational bullies. They will win in court. But wouldn’t it make more sense for the state to spend our education money on expanding choices for every child… instead on trying to bully them out of a good education?

Bill Walker 

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